U.S. Policy Update for Thursday, 21 July 2016

Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Flag-Raising Ceremony at the Newly Re-Opened U.S. Embassy in Havana (State Dept.)

Today’s topics: Cuba update / Turkey / Solar power / Telehealth / Carter on counter-ISIL fight

Cuba 1 Year On

20 July 2016 A year of strengthening Cuba-U.S. ties  Though separated by just 140 kilometers of water, the United States and Cuba have endured strained relations for more than

Veteran Marines Mike East, Jim Tracy, and Larry Morris Present the Flag to the 2015 Marines to be Raised for the First Time in 54 Years at U.S. Embassy Havana
FILE: Veteran Marines Mike East, Jim Tracy, and Larry Morris Present the Flag to the 2015 Marines to be Raised for the First Time in 54 Years at U.S. Embassy Havana (State Dept photo)

half a century. In 2015, the two countries began to chart a new course. Early on, the two nations agreed to manage their agenda through a bilateral commission.

20 July 2016 Senior State Department Official on One Year of Re-established Diplomatic Relations With Cuba  “President Obama traveled to Havana in March. It was a historic visit and the first by a U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. While there, President Obama extended a hand of friendship to the Cuban people, highlighted our commitment to normalizing relations, and also noted the profound differences between our governments. We remain convinced that our shift from a policy of isolation to engagement is the best course for supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people and the emergence of a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Cuba.

Today, I would like to reflect on those areas where we have made strides – in commerce, law enforcement, health, the environment, and access to the internet. I want to also discuss the challenges we face in the areas of human rights, property claims, and the return of fugitives.

Four Cabinet-level officials and 39 members of Congress joined the President’s trip to Cuba and since then, high-level officials from the departments of State, Justice, Commerce, Homeland Security, and the Small Business Administration have visited the island. We have welcomed the Cuban ministers of foreign trade and investment, agriculture, health, and foreign affairs to the United States.”

  •  Fact Sheet on United States-Cuba One Year Anniversary of Re-established Diplomatic Relations   July 20 marks the completion of the first year of restored diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.    This historic breakthrough has allowed us to more effectively advance U.S. interests and values with our southern neighbor. Since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, the United States and Cuba have expanded cooperation in areas such as the environment, transportation, agriculture, health, and law enforcement. Numerous high-level U.S. officials have visited Cuba to deepen relations, including President Obama, five cabinet secretaries, Members of Congress, governors, and mayors. Hundreds of representatives of U.S. civil society, business, and religious communities have also visited. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are interacting with the Cuban people through educational and cultural exchanges for the first time. We have made progress in many areas, but will continue to work through remaining challenges, including human rights, claims, and the return of fugitives.
  • Photos from Secretary Kerry’s 2015 visit to Cuba are on Flickr



19 July 2016 Readout of the President’s Call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey  The President spoke by phone today with Turkish President  Erdogan and again strongly condemned last week’s attempt to violently remove the democratically-elected civilian government of Turkey and expressed his support for Turkish democracy.  The President lauded the Turkish people’s resolve against this violent intervention and their commitment to democracy.  He further urged that the investigations and prosecution of the coup’s perpetrators be conducted in ways that reinforce public confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law.

Solar Power

Solar panels in a Californian desert
The Solar Star solar farm in California was completed in 2015. (Courtesy of SunPower)

21 July 2016 Solar energy lights the way from California to Africa    California is blazing ahead in renewable energy, with an emphasis on solar. It’s an ambitious plan that other U.S. states and countries are watching carefully.

The state can already electrify 3.3 million homes with solar energy alone. A large chunk of that comes from the new Solar Star installation, with 1.7 million solar panels. It is the solar farm with the largest capacity in the world.

California outshines all other U.S. states in solar power. The solar dominance was achieved by a combination of local, state and federal laws and incentives for businesses and ordinary citizens to adopt solar and other renewable energy technologies. Generous tax credits have been important tools in California’s renewable energy roll-out.



21 July 2016 Is telehealth poised to revolutionize global medical care? When you’re sick, one of the hardest parts about getting better is getting up and getting to the doctor.

A doctor in front of a computer screen
University of Miami dermatologist Dr. Anne Burdick checks the computer screen in her Miami office as she discusses telemedicine. (© AP Images)

Soon, the solution may be just a mouse click away. It’s called telehealth, and it links patients and doctors using computers or mobile devices. Some researchers think it will revolutionize global health care in the next decade.

Telemedicine is now used to some extent to monitor heart patients and to connect doctors and distant emergency rooms.
But in the next decade, telemedicine or virtual care will evolve into telehealth, say the authors of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Utilizing computers or mobile devices, doctors and nurses could be available 24 hours a day at relatively low cost to assess emergency situations, like heart attack or stroke.


Counter-ISIL Fight

Military staff around a conference table
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left back, listens to remarks from French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, right back, during a meeting of defense ministers and senior leaders from the coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 20, 2016. DoD phot

20 July 2016 Carter: Defense Ministers Agree on Next Steps in Counter-ISIL Fight  Defense ministers and other senior leaders of the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant coalition have agreed on next steps in the accelerated fight against the terrorist army in Iraq and Syria, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Carter hosted the meeting, the third of its kind, at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for the representatives of more than 30 nations from the coalition and NATO to discuss the ongoing military campaign against ISIL and plans for upcoming offensives.

“In January this year, we updated our comprehensive coalition military campaign plan, … and we’ve pursued a number of deliberate decisions and actions to accelerate this plan and hasten ISIL’s lasting defeat,” Carter said during a news conference after the meeting.

Since the first full defense ministerial in Brussels in February, Carter said, coalition nations, including the United States, have provided support to accelerate the campaign as local partners have made advances. And all have agreed to do more, he said.

For the United States, President Barack Obama decided to deploy another 560 troops to support the Iraqi security forces in their offensive to retake Mosul. And on a visit to Iraq last week, the secretary met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi, offering to share with the Iraqi forces hard-earned U.S. expertise in countering improvised explosive devices.